'Tis the season for iced coffee. I have a batch of cold brew going at the moment-- my first in years. Cold coffee was a must when I lived in Downtown Los Angeles. Sometimes I would cold-brew, sometimes I'd use a phin for Vietnamese-style coffee. Always, there would be condensed milk.
When I was in Cambodia in 2013, I noticed a strange thing: it was fairly difficult to find canned sweetened condensed milk that was actually just milk and sugar. In most markets, the "milk" I found all contained palm oil. I've noticed that a lot of markets now carry cans of "sweetened condensed creamer" which are made with nonfat milk, whey powder, and palm oil. One brand has a cow on the label and states that it's organic. Well.
Not only are there various ethical issues with palm oil, it also turns the milk a strange color and consistency. The "creamer" is shinier, thinner, more translucent than real sweetened condensed milk. And it just doesn't taste as good.
Thankfully, the brand whose label I find most charming, Longevity Brand, still sticks to the plain old milk and sugar. I love that hermit. And, I assumed that they're owned by Nestle by now, but a quick Wikipedia search revealed that they've actually been owned by a cooperative called Friesland Campina since 1975. Colonialism aside, at least it's a co-op?
Layers and layers of money money money. Now I'm wondering what other Southeast Asian businesses fell to western companies who continue to capitalize (ever-increasingly, as well) on the branding.